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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top statistician said on Sunday anyone caught falsifying economic data would face zero tolerance and be punished under the law.
There has long been scepticism about the reliability of Chinese data, especially as the government has sought to reduce expectations of a protracted slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
In January, the "rustbelt" northeastern province of Liaoning said in its annual work report it had falsified reporting of fiscal data from 2011 to 2014.
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament, Ning Jizhe, head of the National Statistics Bureau, said violations would be investigated and punished.
"As soon as there are statistical cases that break the law or faked, it will be voted down, there will be zero tolerance, no appeasement," said Ning, who is also Vice Chairman of the planning body the National Development and Reform Commission.
The combined economic output of China's provinces has long exceeded national output measured by the National Bureau of Statistics, raising suspicions that local officials were overstating performance.
The gap has been narrowing, but the discrepancy between provincial GDP and the national figure was still 2.76 trillion yuan ($399.71 billion) last year, roughly equal to the GDP of Thailand, according to a Reuters calculation.
($1 = 6.9050 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore